Managing IBS with Diet

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Hey everyone! Dr. Dale here.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common conditions that I see in my gastroenterology practice.  In fact, it’s estimated that about 15% of the world’s population struggles with IBS and the unpleasant symptoms that go along with it—including gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Patients should know that diet alone may not effectively treat IBS.  Plus, IBS symptoms can sometimes be very similar to those found with more dangerous health conditions, such as colon cancer or Crohn’s disease.  For these reasons, it’s important to call the office and schedule an appointment if you believe you may have IBS. However, many patients do find that they are able to manage their symptoms and find some relief through an IBS-appropriate diet.

There are a number of specialized diets available for patients with IBS and other GI issues.  These include diets that eliminate or restrict common “trigger foods”, such as gluten, dairy, sugar, and high amounts of fiber.  Every patient is unique, so trigger foods may not be the same for everyone, and you may need to trial a few different diets before you find the right fit.

If you’d like to try an IBS diet, the “low FODMAP” diet is a great place to start.  This diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia, specifically for patients with IBS.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols. While the name may seem long and confusing, the important thing to know is that it refers to specific types of carbohydrates that are difficult for people with IBS to digest.  The low FODMAP diet focuses on eliminating these types of carbohydrates, while including a variety of foods that are easier to digest.

In general, a patient following the low FODMAP diet would avoid cow’s milk, certain types of fruits and veggies, most legumes, gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, and rye), and high-fructose corn syrup.  Instead, this patient might consume almond milk, low-FODMAP fruits and veggies, animal proteins, rice, and sugars that are lower in fructose. There are hundreds of foods that have been tested at Monash University and certified as safe for people with IBS.

One caveat: the low FODMAP diet is quite specific.  Rather than just avoiding one group of foods, such as meat or fats, the low FODMAP diet restricts certain foods from many different food groups.  For this reason, it can be a little challenging to get the hang of, so please call the office at 310-360-6807 and make an appointment if you think you’d like to give it a try.  We can schedule some time to discuss your IBS symptoms and specific nutrition needs, and give you some pointers on getting started with the diet.

The Monash University website also has some great information on this diet, including recipes and a list of high and low FODMAP foods. You can view these resources at: https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/